President-elect Joe Biden on Friday said he would deploy the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Guard to help set up vaccine clinics across the U.S. as part of an ambitious plan to get shots to millions of Americans.
Reminding the public that help is soon on the way in a speech from Wilmington, Delaware, Biden outlined a five-part plan to turn “frustration to motivation” that will get the U.S. out of the pandemic.
Under the plan, the White House would enlist the support of FEMA and the National Guard to set up thousands of community vaccination sites to help states vaccinate more people. To support states, Biden said the federal government would fully reimburse states for their use of the National Guard.
Also, under the plan, Biden would also jump-start efforts to make vaccinations available in all pharmacies across the country and would launch mobile vaccination clinics designed to specifically reach underserved urban and rural areas.
"As we build them, we will make sure it’s done equitably. We’ll make sure there are vaccination centers in communities hit hardest by the pandemic, in Black and Latino communities, and rural communities as well," he said Friday.
The plan would also launch new ways of getting shots to high-risk people, like homeless people, incarcerated people and residents of institutions that serve developmentally and intellectually disabled people.
In addition, Biden vowed to use the Defense Production Act to help ramp up the supply of various vaccines.
“We didn’t get into all of this overnight, we won't get out of it overnight either,” Biden said while unveiling the plan. "But we will get through it."
"I am convinced we can get it done. And this is the time to set big goals and to pursue them with courage and conviction because the health of the nation is at stake," he added.
Biden has said that his goal is for 100 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to be administered within the first 100 days of his presidency, which would be the end of April.
Biden's plan also proposes mobilizing more medical staff to help administer vaccines, including retired healthcare workers.
Biden's plan, while relying in part on federal resources, ultimately gives more power to states to accelerate their vaccine disbursement as quickly as they can.
"We’ll fix the problem by encouraging states to allow more people to get vaccinated beyond health care workers and move through these groups as quickly as states think they can. That includes anyone 65 and older," Biden said Friday.
Health experts and government officials at the state and local levels have said that the Trump administration bungled the distribution of the vaccines — Biden said Friday that "the vaccine rollout in the United States has been a dismal failure so far" — and never had a strategy. As of Thursday, more than 30 million vaccination doses distributed nationwide, but just over 11 million people had received their first doses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Over the last week, Trump administration officials finally began giving Biden's team access to critical Covid-19 vaccination data. After weeks of requesting to attend Operation Warp Speed vaccine briefings, last week, Trump officials finally allowed Biden's representatives to attend, according to a person familiar with the plans. And as of Thursday, the Biden transition team has not yet obtained access to the Defense Department’s vaccination plans for the military, the source said.
The death toll from the pandemic and case count continues to climb. For several days in a row this week, it exceeded 4,000 deaths. According to NBC News' Covid-19 data tracker, over 390,000 people have died from the disease and there have been more than 23 million cases.
Later in his speech, Biden blasted House Republicans for failing to wear a mask during the Capitol insurrection, resulting in four Democrats testing positive.
“What the hell is the matter with them? It's time to grow up,” he said. “For God's sake, wear a mask if not for yourself, for your loved ones, for your country.”
Meanwhile, security concerns have postponed a dress rehearsal for his inauguration on Wednesday.
The inaugural rehearsal that was scheduled for Sunday has now been postponed until Monday because of those concerns, according to two sources familiar with the matter. Politico first reported the postponement.
Asked by reporters in Wilmington as he walked off the stage following his vaccine plan remarks, if he felt safe for Wednesday's inauguration based on the intelligence he'd seen, Biden replied, "yes."
Biden also said that he and Jill Biden are ready for inauguration. The president-elect said his team has also been in touch with the Senate parliamentarian as he pushes for his nominees and agenda to be confirmed while the chamber is likely to pursue a Trump impeachment trial.
There has been discussion about moving the event inside, but a source said Biden would prefer it stay outdoors.
“I have a lot of confidence, a great deal of confidence, in the ability of the Secret Service and the other assets supporting them to make this inauguration a safe one,” incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain said during an interview with the Washington Post.
Trump is expected to leave the White House that morning, forgoing the ceremony. Vice President Mike Pence will attend and a source told NBC News that there is supposed to be a brief moment between him, Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff.
In other transition news:
- In a primetime speech Thursday, Biden laid out a $1.9 trillion relief package that he wants Congress to quickly pass to help people who are struggling from the coronavirus pandemic. The plan would provide $1,400 direct payments and include an extra $400 per week for people who are unemployed. It would also raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
- Biden will appoint lawyer David Cohen as deputy director of the CIA, a transition team official told NBC News. Cohen previously served in the role for two years in the Obama administration and unlike the position of CIA director, this job doesn't require Senate confirmation so he can start immediately.
A spokeswoman for the Capitol Police told NBC News Friday that complaints by Democrats that some Republican members of Congress led people through the Capitol on a "reconnaissance" tour of the building a day before the riot last week "is under investigation."
- The committee overseeing Biden’s inaugural announced Friday morning several more speakers and performers for the primetime special that is expected to air between 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday. "Eva Longoria and Kerry Washington will introduce segments throughout the night ranging from stories of young people making a difference in their communities to musical performances. Foo Fighters, John Legend and Bruce Springsteen will perform from iconic locations across the country, joining Demi Lovato, Justin Timberlake, Ant Clemons, and Jon Bon Jovi with additional performances to be announced ahead of January 20," the committee said.